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13 Restaurants

From Andrew Harper:

New York is often seen as a dynamic, inspiring and ultimately exasperating city. But as an autumn stroll through Greenwich Village or a quiet drink in the King Cole Bar can attest, it’s eminently possible to come here for a nice, relaxing stay. Boutique hotels tend to open with a splash then shutter with a whimper, but a handful of classic addresses still delivers stately but comfortable surroundings and uncanny levels of service. The grandes dames of Fifth Avenue, The St. Regis and The Peninsula, frequently cater to a midtown business crowd, while more intimate Upper East Side retreats like The Lowell, The Carlyle, and the Plaza Athénée are perfect for lovers of Central Park and Museum Mile. The Mandarin Oriental, a sleek tower of glass suspended over Columbus Circle, is the most notable debut of the past decade.

- Andrew Harper

Hotels & Travel Partners



In a city where restaurateurs invariably leverage their success, I fervently admire Alfred Portale. He stands steadfast in one place and continues to create wonderful food that is straightforward and delicious. The menu changes seasonally, but among the starters, you can almost always find a delicious tuna tartare. The second courses always include a risotto: A recent offering was filled with English peas, spring onions, fava beans, pea shoots, pancetta and Parmesan. Among the third courses, the grilled aged New York steak is served with a custard of Dijon mustard, Vidalia onion rings and a Bordelaise sauce.

12 East 12th Street New York City $90

Set on an otherwise undistinguished block west of Fifth Avenue, this legendary establishment has a brownstone exterior populated with a derby’s worth of colorful jockey figurines. Inside is the embodiment of a congenial club, with an agreeable ground-floor lounge and the bar/restaurant itself, its ceiling festooned with corporate “toys” — trucks, planes, trains, cars — bestowed by patrons, plus a long curved bar and red-checked tablecloths. The menu here and in the upstairs dining room features favorites such as the ‘21’ Caesar salad, chicken hash, Dover sole grilled or sautéed, and, from the grill, a 14-ounce 28-day-aged prime New York sirloin. The wine cellar contains more than 1,300 selections, and is worth visiting to see how it was concealed from the law during Prohibition. Closed on Sundays.

21 West 52nd Street New York City $80. Three-course menu, $75

Although star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees a global empire of restaurants, the quality here never falters. The dining room is a minimalist space with floral arrangements, flattering lighting and large windows facing Columbus Circle. The menu changes regularly, but you can always count on the best ingredients prepared in surprising ways. Look, for example, for dishes such as Santa Barbara sea urchin with black bread, jalapeño and yuzu; black bass crusted with nuts and seeds in a sweet-and-sour jus; and, for carnivores, caramelized beef tenderloin with Gorgonzola profiteroles and pickled ramp fondue.

1 Central Park West Trump International Hotel New York City Three-course menu, $120

This recently redesigned dining room houses the city’s finest seafood restaurant. A Midtown oasis run by delightful owner Maguy Le Coze, it attracts business tycoons brokering their deals. They also come for chef Eric Ripert’s extraordinary food. The innovative menu is divided into three categories: “Almost Raw,” “Barely Touched” and “Lightly Cooked.” Among the highlights are layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna with foie gras and toasted baguette with shaved chives and extra-virgin olive oil; sautéed langoustines, summer truffles and chanterelles; and sautéed Dover sole accompanied by fried rice with morels and seasonal vegetables, plus a Chardonnay-shallot emulsion. Closed on Sundays.

155 West 51st Street New York City $135 prix fixe. Seven-course tasting menu, $155; eight-course chef's menu, $200

This elegant space has a bar flanked by a wall of backlit onyx, and a main dining room with rosewood accents and mounted seashells. Chef Michael White is a master of seafood presentations, whether it’s the extensive selection of raw sliced fish such as Pacific snapper with mandarin orange and pistachios in a carrot vinaigrette; antipasti like Nova Scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant and basil; superb pastas such as gnocchetti with red shrimp, chilies and rosemary; or the main fish dishes, grilled swordfish with pea shoots, stuffed peppers, romesco, almonds and sopressata being a fine example.

240 Central Park South New York City $85. Four-course menu, $100

New York was once home to numerous classic French restaurants, but tastes changed, and one by one, they faded and died — with a single exception. Ensconced in its own townhouse, La Grenouille is better than ever. The elegant and romantic dining room has silk-sheathed walls, plush banquettes, perfect lighting and a crowd of people who are quietly notable. The cooking is superb, and while the menu abounds with French classics, there is room for innovation in the seasonal daily specials. Perfectly executed signature dishes include fluffy pike quenelles; flaky, tender grilled Dover sole in a gentle mustard sauce; and, of course, the stuffed frogs’ legs Provençale. The dessert soufflés are justifiably celebrated. The wine list is wide-ranging, and the staff’s advice is worth heeding. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

3 East 52nd Street New York City Three-course menu, $105

When we go to Lincoln Center, I often anticipate a meal at Picholine as much as I do the evening’s performance. I have long admired chef-owner Terrance Brennan, who first came to my attention at his cheese-friendly restaurant, Artisanal. Here, you can be assured of an elegant, civilized atmosphere and excellent service. Look for starters such as smoked sturgeon panna cotta with beet “carpaccio” and wild American caviar; or fava bean tortellini with pickled garlic and curry. Main courses might include turbot with razor clams, green garlic and chanterelles; or rib eye with bone marrow bread pudding, salsify and parsley vinaigrette.

35 West 64th Street New York Three-course menu, $95; 12-course chef's menu, $185

This elegant offering from chef Michael White is located in the Langham Place hotel on Fifth Avenue (White also presides over Marea and Osteria Morini). The menu changes frequently, but look for pastas such as Trofie Nero, Ligurian-style squid’s ink pasta, with a tangy ragout of squid and scallops. The equally outstanding main courses may include halibut with Manila clams, potatoes, chickpeas and basil; or an excellent veal chop with new potatoes, prosciutto and sage. There are more than two dozen wines by the glass.

400 Fifth Avenue 2nd Level New York City $75. Four-course menu, $95; seven-course chef’s tasting menu, $130

This attractive space has a lively front bar area where you can order casual meals — especially pleasant at lunch — and a main dining area. The ever-changing menu features starters such as smoked trout with a purée of cipollini onions, and pickled onions; and pork Bolognese with tagliatelle, fennel and Grana Padano cheese. Main courses might include black bass with fennel, olives and fingerling potatoes; or pork loin and bacon with Swiss chard, radish and honey vinaigrette. The far-ranging wine list has more than two dozen selections by the glass.

42 East 20th Street New York City Three-course menu, $90; six-course seasonal menu, $120; six-course vegetarian menu, $100

This contemporary American restaurant remains dependably excellent. Chef Sam Hazen has created a menu of dishes that pair beautifully with the extraordinary wine cellar of more than 75,000 bottles. Many came directly from the wineries, and you will likely not encounter them anywhere else, so just perusing the list is a pleasure. The menu changes regularly, but look for starters such as crab salad with lemon jam, black olives and arugula; or lobster with bone marrow. Main courses might be striped bass with an eggplant confit, sweet peppers and sauce vierge; or a pan-roasted veal chop with short-rib ravioli and watercress.

43 East 20th Street New York City $80

Located in a corner of the Gramercy Park Hotel, this restaurant has a lively front bar where you can eat casually, and a slightly more formal main dining room. The wide selection of salumi presents several possibilities for starters, or you can just order the grande selezione (much sourced right in New York and some made in-house). The many pastas include tonnarelli with Pecorino cheese and black pepper, and spaghetti carbonara, with black pepper, egg and guanciale. Among the main courses, do not miss the suckling pig if it is available.

2 Lexington Avenue New York City $75. Four-course family-style menu, $75

Founded in 1885, this is one of the most atmospheric restaurants in Manhattan, with dark paneled walls hung with portraits and its ceiling festooned with rows of clay churchwarden pipes, the legacy of the famous Pipe Club, whose members included luminaries such as Teddy Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, Stanford White and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The menu is a carnivore’s delight, with steaks and chops of all varieties. The wine list is well-priced, and there is also a fine selection of single malt whiskies.

72 West 36th Street New York City $100

This wonderful Italian restaurant is set in a townhouse on a quiet side street in Greenwich Village. The dynamos behind its success are chef Mario Batali and partner Joe Bastianich. The downstairs is lively; the more subdued upstairs is one of the most attractive dining rooms in the city. Among the antipasti, the salad of warm lamb’s tongue with brown beech mushrooms and a three-minute egg is exceptional. It’s hard to choose a favorite from the primi courses, but the beef-cheek ravioli with squab liver and black truffles is a classic. Among the main courses, grilled branzino with radishes, olives and lemon-oregano jam is a standout.

110 Waverly Place New York City $70. Seven- course tasting menu, $100; seven-course pasta tasting menu, $85
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